Warner Bros.’s Max picked the worst possible time to change its writer credit

The Writer's Guild, which is on strike, called it “disrespectful and insulting”
The Max fiasco comes as writers are striking in Hollywood.
The Max fiasco comes as writers are striking in Hollywood.
Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)
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HBO Max is now just Max.

While the name-change is a head-scratcher, dropping any mention of perhaps the most influential brand in modern television, it’s the streaming service’s credit labels that have seemingly enraged all of Hollywood.

Instead of listing specific credits for each film and television show, Max lumped writers, directors, producers, and other credits just as “creators.”

While there’s no good time to publicly refer to Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese as “creators,” Warner Bros. Discovery, Max’s parent company, picked the worst possible time for this fiasco: the writers’ strike.

“Disrespectful and insulting”

The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), the labor union representing Hollywood screenwriters, is currently on strike against the studios and streaming companies. The union condemned Warner Bros. Discovery in a statement, calling it “disrespectful and insulting.”

“This attempt to diminish Writers’ contributions and importance echoes the message we heard in our negotiations with [the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] — that writers are marginal, inessential, and should simply accept being paid less and less, while our employers’ profits go higher and higher,” WGAW president Meredith Stiehm wrote in a statement on May 24. “This tone-deaf disregard for Writers’ importance is what brought us to where we are today — Day 22 of our strike.” (Disclosure: Quartz’s editorial staff in the US are represented by the Writers Guild of America East, which is affiliated with WGAW.)

This sentiment was echoed by the Directors Guild of America, whose statement called the Max credits a “grave insult.”

“This devaluation of the individual contributions of artists is a disturbing trend and the DGA will not stand for it,” said union president Lesli Linka Glatter. “We intend on taking the strongest possible actions, in solidarity with the WGA, to ensure every artist receives the individual credit they deserve.”

An “oversight in the technical transition”

Warner Bros. Discovery apologized, calling the credit system an “oversight” in a statement.

“We agree that the talent behind the content on Max deserve their work to be properly recognized,” the company wrote in a statement first reported by The Daily Beast. “We will correct the credits, which were altered due to an oversight in the technical transition from HBO Max to Max and we apologize for this mistake.”

But the media company’s explanation doesn’t make much sense. It’s hard to see how the transition from one streaming platform to another could lead to a “technical” problem when they had to create an entire new category, rather than port in the old credits with their proper listings.

It’s easier to see, however, how this fiasco will hurt all of the studios in their negotiations with striking writers.